Local election briefing: London

by Jackie_South on May 22, 2014

Labour’s partial consolation for losing the 2010 General Election was winning control of a majority of the London boroughs the same day: more than doubling the number where it held an outright majority from eight to seventeen.

That of course limits the number of London boroughs it can gain this time around, and so the gains in today’s elections are likely to seem more modest. There are also likely to be some unpredictable results given that the elections four years ago were held at the same time as the General Election and this time they coincide with the European elections. Last time, the general election boosted turnout, probably helping Labour. This time, turnout will be lower but the polls will have shifted towards Labour compared to four years ago, and the likely strong performance by UKIP today could provide some strange results: not only gaining Farage some London councillors but taking votes unevenly from the other parties, possibly to Labour’s net advantage in some areas.

The map below shows which party won control of each borough in 2010.

London boroughs 2010

Here is our rundown for all 32 London boroughs, complete with our prediction and which wards might yield the most interesting results. The map at the end summarises our predictions.

BARKING AND DAGENHAM

Labour has controlled Barking and Dagenham since its creation in 1964, and won every seat on the council in 2010.

However, they had a lot of help then, as support flooded in to stop Nick Griffin’s attempt to become MP for Barking. In 2006, 12 BNP councillors were elected here. A BNP resurgence is unlikely, but disaffected white working class votes might go to UKIP this time around.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: Goresbrook (west Dagenham) had the highest BNP vote in 2010 (26.6%). If UKIP breakthrough, this could be where they take a seat.

BARNET

The Conservatives have always been the largest party in Barnet, although Labour and Lib Dems had enough seats between them in 1994 and 1998 to control the borough together.

Barnet was at the cutting edge of rightwing nut-jobbery in 2010, outsourcing as much as possible. They have rowed back a little since then through a change of leadership. An interesting race this time will be normally safe Tory Totteridge, where disgraced former GLA member Brian Coleman (who lost his seat there in 2012 and was convicted of assault) is standing as an independent.

Labour’s strength is around the west side of Hendon and Mrs Thatcher’s old seat of Finchley. They might just remove the Conservative majority this time, although outright control seems unlikely.

Prediction: narrow Conservative hold

Ward to watch: On the basis of 2010, East Barnet is the ward where Labour needs to win a couple of seats to remove the Conservative majority.

BEXLEY

Labour had a majority on Bexley council between 2002 and 2006, but was reduced to only 11 seats to the Conservatives 52 by 2010. Labour’s representation is now limited to the wards running along the banks of the Thames. Labour will be hoping to make up ground this time around Crayford and Erith in the northern half of the borough, but victory is extremely unlikely.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: it probably won’t change hands, but Labour have infuriated Tory leader of the council Theresa O’Neill in her own Bexleyheath-based Brampton ward by running three candidates against her with the surname O’Neill!

BRENT

Brent is more often than not Labour-run, but they were denied a majority in 1968, 1990, 1994 and 2006. 1968 and 2006 were bad years for Labour nationally, but their losses in the ‘90s were down to a perception of incompetence. Indeed, incompetence is an accusation thrown at successive governing administrations there of all political colours. Politics in Brent often seem captive of the political manoeuvrings of different racial interest groups who put status above achievements.

It is a perception Labour have not managed to fully throw off since regaining control in 2010: Brent hit the headlines in 2011 with its closure of many of its libraries due to government cuts (residents noticed that other Labour-controlled boroughs hit by bigger cuts managed to keep theirs open).

More recently though leader Mohammed Butt has shown a more steady hand, and their 17 seat majority will take a lot to shift, not least given that the largest opposition party currently is the Liberal Democrats (Sarah Teather is an MP here).

But if Labour hold on, it remains to be seen if Brent can escape its reputation as one of London’s most prominent basket cases.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: The Lib Dem’s strongest ward in Teather’s Brent Central constituency is Mapesbury. If Labour win here, it is more evidence that the constituency should return to Labour next year.

BROMLEY

If you asked followers of London local government who the barmiest council leader was in the capital, there is a good chance that Bromley’s Stephen Carr would win. Carr has managed to alienate Conservative as well as Labour leaders with what often appear attempts to declare UDI from London, before going back to them to ask for co-operation on his own pet projects.

This won’t have any impact on the elections though: the Conservatives have always been the largest party in the borough, although a Labour-Lib Dem coalition managed to hold power between 1998 and 2002. The Tories currently hold 53 of the 60 seats on the council. Labour holds a single ward – Penge & Cator – whilst the Lib Dems hold 4 seats in the north west (Crystal Palace, Clock House)and north east (Cray Valley East) of the borough.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Wards to watch: Labour will want to capture seats in the north-west of the borough at Crystal Palace (currently Lib Dem) and Clock House (currently split between Conservatives and Lib Dem).

CAMDEN

Labour have only lost Camden twice: in their nadir years of 1968 and 2006. Since 2010, they have been back on top, holding 30 of the 54 seats in their decorous council chamber.

Labour’s strength is in Frank Dobson’s Holborn & St Pancras constituency in the borough’s south east, although the Lib Dems have five seats there and there is a Green councillor in Highgate ward. In the Hampstead and Kilburn part of the borough though, their only councillors are in Kilburn ward, with the Tories and Lib Dems sharing out the other 19 seats.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: Haverstock ward, to the northwest of Camden Town, is the only solely Lib Dem ward in Holborn & St Pancras, due to the election there being held a few weeks after the other wards in 2010 due to the death of a candidate. As a result, the Lib Dems won two seats off Labour. Labour will want to win those back this time.

CROYDON

If you just look at the numbers of seats, things look tight for the ruling Conservatives in Croydon: they won 37 seats to Labour’s 33 in 2010. Labour only need to win three more to have a majority in London’s most populous borough.

However, Croydon is a remarkably polarised place: Labour has very safe wards in the north, making Steve Reed’s Croydon North constituency one of Labour’s safest in the country. In contrast, the Conservatives have rock-solid wards in the south. There is not much contested ground: New Addington (an estate-based ward in the southeast of the borough) is split between the two parties and the only other ward where the Tory lead over Labour is less than 10 percent is Waddon ward. That does not leave Labour much margin of error as both parties pile all their resources there.

Prediction: close, but Conservative hold

Ward to watch: assuming Labour can win both seats in New Addington this time, their easiest route to control of the council is by winning two of the three seats in Waddon ward, where they were some 350 votes off winning a seat in 2010.

EALING

Ealing has swung between Labour and the Conservatives over the years, although it has been more frequently Labour. Other than a Conservative win in 1990, the balance of control has broadly followed national trends. In 2010, they regained the borough from the Conservatives by 40 seats to 24, with the Lib Dems holding the other 5.

Broadly speaking, the Tories are strongest in the centre of the borough around Ealing itself. Labour is strongest in the southwest around Southall, and also holds seats in Acton in the east and Greenford and Northolt in the north. Labour will want to strengthen its position in the east of the borough to maximise its chances of winning the Ealing Central & Acton constituency next year.

Prediction: probable Labour hold

Wards to watch: in 2010, Elthorne ward in the south of the borough had one Conservative, one Labour and one Lib Dem councillor elected. If Labour can win seats in Walpole ward off the Conservatives, it augurs well for them gaining an MP in Ealing Central & Acton.

ENFIELD

Like Ealing, Enfield has swung between Conservatives and Labour with the political tide, although here it is the Conservatives that have more often won. Labour retook Enfield with 36 councillors to the Conservatives’ 29 in 2010.

The borough’s politics follows geography: the west of the borough (Southgate, Enfield Chase, Enfield Town, Winchmore Hill) is Conservative, the east (particularly Edmonton) strongly Labour. Last time, the southern edge of the borough (Palmers Green) was also good for the reds. Labour will want to build on its 2010 result to maximise its chances of winning back marginal Enfield North in next year’s general election.

Prediction: probable Labour hold

Ward to watch: like the borough as a whole, Enfield North constituency is split east-west politically, with Labour holding 4 wards to the Conservatives’ 3. Winning any of those three will be hard, but if Labour can eat into the 600 vote majority that the Conservatives have in Chase ward, it will be a good sign for their chances next year.

GREENWICH

Despite the leafy look of historic Greenwich and Eltham, Labour has held the borough in every election other than their historic low point of 1968. In 2010, they held 40 seats to the Conservatives’ 11.

The Conservative strength is around Eltham and they also hold two of the three seats in Blackheath Westcombe ward. Labour is particularly strong in the east of the borough: Woolwich, Thamesmead, Plumstead.

Labour will have no problems this year: many of their councillors will instead be absorbed by the manoeuvrings to elect a new leader after the elections as the 14 year reign of Chris Roberts comes to an end.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: Blackheath Westcombe has often been split between Labour and the Conservatives. Will one maange to win all three seats here this time around?

HACKNEY

Earlier I wrote about Brent being the basket case of London. Perhaps the example of a former holder of that title, Hackney, might offer them a routemap.

Labour lost control of Hackney in 1998, following a long litany of scandal, including the political cover-up of one of its social worker’s paedophilia. A repentant and refreshed Labour Party won back control in 2002 (following a few scandals of the Conservative-Lib Dem administration in the intervening years) and started cleaning things up.

The electorate rewarded them with 50 out of the borough’s 57 council seats in 2010, along with a second term for its directly elected mayor Jules Pipe. The Conservatives won four seats across three split wards along the borough’s northern edge whilst the Lib Dems held all three seats in Cazenove ward on the borders of Stoke Newington and Upper Clapton.

Labour will easily hold the borough, and could even manage to win every seat on the council this time around.

Prediction: Labour hold, and a further mayoral term for Jules Pipe

Ward to watch: if a collapse in the Lib Dem vote delivers Cazenove ward to Labour, the hardest seats for Labour to win off the Tories are in Springfield ward (Upper Clapton/ Stamford Hill). Victory here could therefore indicate that Labour have won every seat in the council.

HAMMERSMITH AND FULHAM

Labour ran Hammersmith and Fulham, bar a disastrous 1968 election, pretty much continuously up until 2006. But a combination of  demographic changes and a bad year for Labour delivered a Conservative landslide in that year: 33 Tories, 13 Labour.

Further demographic change and the result in 2010 (Labour only regained two seats) suggest that it might be hard for them to regain control this time. However, Labour are working hard there to do so.

To win the requisite nine seats to win a majority, Labour need to gain the remaining two seats in North End ward, and make gains around the Hammersmith centre of the borough in Fulham Reach, Addison and Ravenscourt Park wards.

But it is a much changed borough: Fulham is now Tory dominated, outside of the split North End ward, and even in the more Labour-inclined Shepherd’s Bush end of the borough Steptoe and Son would find it hard to recognise their old neighbourhood, under the shadow of the new Westfield Centre. The Conservatives have aggressively pursued a Thatcherite agenda in the borough, but this has delivered significant cuts in council tax that could well appeal to the borough’s newer residents.

Prediction: probable Conservative hold 

Ward to watch: of the wards above, Labour need to win (in ascending order of difficulty) all the seats in North End, Fulham Reach, Addison and Ravenscourt Park. Winning all the seats in the first three and one in the latter, whilst holding all they have currently, would deliver victory.

HARINGEY

Labour had a fortunate escape in Haringey in 2010: if the election had not been on the same day as the general election they could have been punished by the voters for the Baby P scandal. Instead, they held on fairly comfortably, winning 34 seats to the Lib Dems’ 23.

Like Enfield to the north, the borough is split east-west politically, although here it is the Lib Dems that dominate in the west in Lynne Featherstone’s Hornsey & Wood Green constituency (although wood Green is Labour-inclined) whilst the eastern Tottenham part of the borough is solidly Labour.

Post Baby P leader Claire Kober has done a solid job over the last four years and Labour should have no trouble holding on to power this time around.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: given that control is probably not in doubt, it is worth watching the signals to see if Featherstone can hold on to her seat in the Commons next year. If Labour win Hornsey ward (which they lost by around 500 votes last time) it will indicate that she is in serious trouble.

HARROW

See our earlier election brief on Harrow.

Prediction: Possible Conservative gain, given the number of candidates for the Independent Labour Group

HAVERING

The Conservatives won a fairly easy victory here on the borders of London and Essex in 2010: they took 33 seats to Labour’s 5, with Residents’ Association candidates picking up the remaining 16 seats.

Things may be different this time around. In the intervening years, the Conservatives lost their majority through seven defections to UKIP. If UKIP are to make advances in Greater London, Havering always looked like one of the most likely boroughs where this might happen, just as they did over in the border south Essex in last year’s county elections.

Things may be complicated a bit by those Residents’ Association councillors: those tend to get elected along the eastern border of the borough around Upminster, and now have a number also in the south around Hornchurch and Rainham, potentially providing a firebreak for UKIP support. But we are anticipating that this will not stop some UKIP councillors being elected here this time.

Prediction: No Overall Control, with Conservatives as largest party

Ward to watch: a little difficult, given the novelty of the UKIP phenomenon, but Hylands ward in west Hornchurch is worth keeping an eye on as a place where they could succeed. The Conservatives won here in 2010 but only with 39% of the vote thanks to a strong Residents’ Association showing. One of those Tory councillors, Peter Gardner, defected to UKIP and is standing this time under their colours.

HILLINGDON

Hillingdon council has changed hands a number of times between the Conservatives and Labour, but seems unlikely to do so this time around. The Conservatives won 46 seats in 2010 to Labour’s 19.

Labour’s support is concentrated around Hayes in the southeast of the borough: they hold all three seats in five of the wards here, plus one each in four surrounding wards in the southern half of the borough. Labour might take the two other seats in each of those, but that would only take them to 27 seats out of 65.

For Labour to advance further they need to break through into the areas around Uxbridge in the centre of the ward. None of those looks easy – their best chances are in Brunel ward (home to the university) and Uxbridge South, but either needs a swing of close to 10%.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: Assuming that Brunel and Uxbridge South are out of reach, the currently split Heathrow Villages ward is worth checking on. The Conservatives gained a seat here in 2010 and local concerns about the potential expansion of Heathrow could determine how the ward votes this time around.

HOUNSLOW

Labour won back control of Hounslow council in 2010 after four years of a minority Conservative administration. This had been a break from the norm: Labour ran Hounslow continuously between 1971 and 2006.

The Feltham & Heston by-election in December 2011 suggests that Labour should consolidate its control this time around, even though they have attracted some criticism from local community groups for cutting their grants to enable them to cut council tax. Labour will want to win more wards in the east of the constituency to help their chances to regain Brentford & Isleworth in next year’s general election, where Conservatives and Labour won 15 seats each in 2010.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: If Labour can win all three seats in marginal Hounslow South ward off the Conservatives, it would indicate that they are on track to regain Brentford & Isleworth next year.

ISLINGTON

Labour won back control of Islington in 2010 after eleven years of Liberal Democrat control. They did it in some style, taking 35 of the 48 seats.

Labour may have thrown off its ‘80s reputation as a Loony Left council,but since 2010 they have established a reputation of being a progressive left-wing council, with bold plans for new housing and being the fastest to implement the Living Wage and abolish zero hours contracts for the employees of its contractors. Catherine West was seen as being Ed Miliband’s favourite council leader before she left the leadership after she was selected to become the PPC in neighbouring Hornsey & Wood Green.

Like Hackney, Islington could potentially become a one-party borough in this year’s elections, seeing the wiping out of the Liberal Democrats who ran the borough up until the 2010 local elections. Their 13 councillors are spread among seven wards split with Labour and a sole one where they hold all three seats.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: Highbury East is the only ward where the Lib Dems won all three seats in 2010. A Labour victory here is likely to spell electoral oblivion for the Lib Dems in a borough they ran only four years ago.

KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA

The Conservatives have had sizable majorities in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in every contest since its creation. The 2010 result (43 Tories, 9 Labour and 2 Lib Dems) suggests no change this time around.

Labour and the Lib Dems are constrained to four wards in the north of the borough, around Ladbroke Grove. Of the remaining 14 wards, the Conservatives achieved an outright majority of the votes in 13.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: Labour will want to win the three seats in Colville and St Charles ward currently outside its control. Outside of its northern base, pickings are thin. Earls Court ward may be worth watching, given controversies about redevelopment there, if Labour can rally former Lib Dem and Green support.

KINGSTON UPON THAMES

Kingston-Upon-Thames is one of the two councils in London currently run by the Liberal Democrats. Their victory there last time was fairly slim: 27 councillors to the Conservatives’ 21. This was actually a growth in the Lib Dems’ majority: they won Labour’s only two seats off them in Norbiton.

The Lib Dems face an uphill battle this time: their national decline in the polls is part of the picture, but there are local factors as well.

Most notable is the two year sentence handed last year to their former leader of the council, Derek Osbourne, for child pornography offences – he was still leader when arrested. One of their candidates in split Canbury ward has admitted to media manipulation to create a hospital closure scare. Despite having some of the lowest government cuts of any London council, they seem to have been fairly ham-fisted in dealing with them. Things do not look good for the Liberal Democrats in Kingston.

The Liberal Democrats currently hold all three seats in seven wards, the Conservatives all three in another five. The four remaining wards are split between them. If the Tories win all the seats in three of them and hold their position in the fourth, they have control of the council.

Prediction: Conservative gain

Ward to watch: of the four split wards, the Conservatives steepest challenge is in Chessington North & Hook ward. If they gain one or both the Lib Dem seats here they are likely to have won control of the borough.

LAMBETH

Like Brent and Hackney, Lambeth used to be a byword for a badly run council. Like the latter, they have now successfully shaken off that label.

Labour won back control of the borough in 2006, and extended their majority in 2010 to 25 seats. Labour now has 44 councillors to the Lib Dems’ 15 and the Conservatives’ 4.

Whilst expecting a comfortable victory this time, Labour are not expecting to swipe the board in the way they might in Hackney and Islington. They hope to win seats from the Lib Dems in Oval, Streatham Hill and Vassall (borders of Brixton and Camberwell) ward, but think that St Leonard’s ward in Streatham is beyond their reach. They have high hopes of taking seats from the Conservatives in Thurlow Park (taking in parts of West Norwood and Tulse Hill) but expect the Tories to hold on, and possibly make gains, in Clapham. Over all, Labour is likely to make further modest gains on 2010.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: Labour currently holds all three seats in Clapham Town ward, but their prospects of holding off the Conservatives here have probably been harmed by the intervention of local Labour MP Kate Hoey, who has publicly disowned the supportive statement for one of the councillors here that the party issued in her name, and called for its withdrawal. if Labour lose seats here, expect a further decline in the relationship between the local party and their increasingly maverick MP.

LEWISHAM

Labour have long been dominant in Lewisham, although they have lost outright control twice in the borough’s history: the Tories took control in Labour’s 1968 nightmare year and they lost their majority, whilst remaining the largest party, in 2006.

Fortunately for them, by 2006 they had a directly elected executive mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, so they maintained control then. Given the 2010 result – 39 out of the 54 seats on the council – they are unlikely to need to rely on the mayor’s position this time. Indeed, like Hackney and Islington, it is not impossible that Labour could wipe the other parties out this time.

Beardy leftie Sir Steve is running for a fourth mayoral term this time – no-one is predicting he will falter this time for what is probably his final term of office.

Prediction: Labour hold, and re-election for Steve Bullock as mayor

Ward to watch: Darren Johnson is vulnerable as the sole Green councillor in Brockley ward, and the last two Conservatives in Grove Park could also falter. However, the biggest scope for losses are among the 12 Liberal Democrats. The one ward where they hold all three seats is Downham, on the south-east edge of the borough. Labour could win through here as, given its white working-class make up, could UKIP.

MERTON

In 2010, residents in Merton had to wait a little longer than other boroughs to learn who was to run the council.

No party won overall control: Labour won 28 seats to the Conservatives’ 27. The balance of power lay with the 2 Lib Dems and three Residents’ Association councillors. In the end, Labour won through to form a minority administration.

Like neighbouring Croydon, Merton is now a polarised borough. Mitcham in the east used to be a marginal constituency, but like Croydon North is now rock solid Labour. Whilst Wimbledon in the west had a Labour MP for eight years, it is now largely pretty safely Tory: they won 71% of the vote in Village ward by Wimbledon Common.

Labour may be helped though this time by four Tories defecting from their group to UKIP.

To win outright control, Labour need to win two seats off the Tories in the currently split Abbey ward around South Wimbledon station, plus one other seat.

Prediction: tight, but Labour gain

Ward to watch: if Labour can win all three seats in Abbey ward, the final seat needed to win control may be in Lower Morden ward. Labour was almost 300 votes off winning a seat here in 2010, but one of the victorious Tories there defected to UKIP and is standing for them this time.

NEWHAM

Newham is a one party state, where Labour won all sixty council seats in 2010. Not only that, Labour took over 50% of the vote in every ward in those elections.  Their long-standing executive Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, is also likely to retain that position.

There is therefore pretty much no chance whatsoever that Labour will lose here: in fact, this is probably the least likely borough in London to change hands. Labour is the only party to have ever run Newham, and always with a healthy majority.

There have been no Conservative councillors here since 1994 and the last Lib Dem defected to Labour later on that same year. Respect did have six councillors elected in 2006 and a Christian People’s Alliance councillor was the official opposition in 2002, but all have since vanished without a trace.

Prediction: very safe Labour hold

Ward to watch: Whilst Labour won every ward easily in 2010, they came close to losing Royal Docks ward in a by-election the year before to the Conservatives. As that ward, stretching between the Docks and the Thames, becomes more gentrified it is possible that the Tories could break through in a low turnout election.

REDBRIDGE

Like Merton, Redbridge council had no party in overall control in 2010, with Conservatives as the largest party with 30 councillors, Labour second on 26 and the Lib Dems third with 7 members. Unlike Merton, the outcome here was a Conservative – Lib Dem coalition.

The politics of Redbridge have previously led to coalitions: Labour and the Lib Dems jointly ran the borough between 1994 and 2002. The Tories then took power for the next eight years before losing their majority and having to go into coalition in 2010.  This tendency for coalitions derives from the patchy nature of the borough.

Labour dominates the borough south of the A12, around Ilford (the principle town centre) and points east such as Seven Kings, Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath. The Tories are particularly strong in Wanstead and Woodford Green in the west of the borough, and Fairlop and Fulwell in the north. The Lib Dems hold two wards in South Woodford plus a further seat in split Valentines ward (just north of Ilford town centre).

Labour have never held outright control of the borough, but demographic changes, such as the growth of the borough’s large Asian population, could enable them to do so this time around. To win outright control, they need to win that seat in Valentines plus five of the six Tory-held seats across three wards currently split with them: Clayhall, Cranbrook (both by Redbridge tube station) and Aldborough to on the borough’s eastern edge. Hainault ward, in the northeast corner of the borough offers Labour another opportunity: they were only 63 votes short of winning a seat there from the Tories in 2010.

Prediction: possible Labour gain

Ward to watch: of the five mentioned above, Hainault in particular is worth looking at. Labour and the Conservatives were close here in 2010, and a Labour win could indicate a strong opportunity for Labour to win Ilford North in the general election. On the other hand, the large Hainault estate on the fringes of London has a large white working class electorate who elected a BNP councillor in 2006: there is an opportunity for UKIP to win their first seats on the council here as well.

RICHMOND UPON THAMES

The Conservatives won control of Richmond Upon Thames from the Liberal Democrats in 2010, as Zac Goldsmith swept to victory in the Richmond Park constituency on the same day. The Tories had 30 councillors, the Lib Dems the other 24.

Richmond Upon Thames is the only London borough to span the Thames, taking in Richmond, Barnes, Kew Ham and Sheen on one bank and Twickenham, Teddington and Hampton on the other. The Conservatives now dominate on the southeast bank, holding 17 of the 21 council seats, whilst the Lib Dems hold 20 of the 33 seats across the river, in Vince Cable’s constituency.

Given current polling, it seems likely that the Tories will make further advances this time around.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: given that we are not anticipating that the Lib Dems could either win back control or any indications now that they will win back Richmond Park next year, it is worth seeing if Vince Cable could be in any difficulty in the general election, despite his currently large majority.

Of the eleven wards there, three are Conservative, four are Lib Dems and the other four are split between the two. If such a collapse was to occur, expect Tories to start getting elected in the weakest of the four wards where the Lib Dems currently hold all three: Teddington ward.

SOUTHWARK

Like Islington, Labour won back control of Southwark in 2010, in this case from a Lib Dem-Con Coalition. Like Islington, Southwark has since pursued progressive leftwing policies: free school meals for all primary school children and ambitious plans to build more council homes than any other council in the country (indeed, currently its plans exceed the total of those of every other council). Southwark is neck-and-neck with Islington on implementing the Living Wage and abolishing zero hours contracts.

This leftwing progressiveness goes alongside financial rigour: despite not increasing council tax rates in the last four years it now collects £14m a year more through that tax through tightening collection rates and tackling fraud.

Given this record, it is likely that Labour will increase the 35 seats (of 63) it won in 2010. The Lib Dems appear to be in a state of panic: their leading criticism of Labour going into the elections is the policy of selling empty council homes that are uneconomic to repair to improve the rest of its stock. This is an odd criticism for the Lib Dems to level as they were the ones to introduce the policy in 2009.

The cause of the panic seems to be signs of a collapse in their vote in their Bermondsey and Rotherhithe heartlands – with votes potentially going to Labour, Conservatives and UKIP. They are unlikely to be wiped out, given the relative popularity of local MP Simon Hughes.

Labour should win all the seats in Harriet Harman’s Camberwell and Peckham constituency, and hope to make gains in the southernmost College ward in Dulwich, around the Elephant & Castle and in South Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. The Tories could be wiped out in Dulwich, but could also gain seats along the riverfront.

Prediction: Labour hold

Ward to watch: the Lib Dems held Rotherhithe ward fairly easily in 2010, and this area was significant in helping Simon Hughes hold on in Labour’s 1997 landslide. But Labour has targeted the ward energetically for the last four years and have won support on the ward’s council estates.  The Tories could take votes from the Lib Dems in the more middleclass parts of the ward and UKIP could win away Hughes’ traditional white working class support. If those changes are enough to propel Labour to victory here, Simon Hughes faces a tight contest next year.

SUTTON

Unlike their other London borough, Kingston, the Liberal Democrats chances of holding on to power in Sutton are reasonably good. They held 43 seats in 2010, whilst the Conservatives held the remaining 11. Labour lost its last councillors here in 2006, and could not reach 20% of the vote in any ward in 2010.

Even given the anticipated rough election for the Lib Dems, losing a 32 seat majority seems unlikely. Leader Ruth Dombey seems to have ran a competent council, in contrast to Kingston’s travails. It is likely that Sutton will be the sole yellow borough left on the London map.

Prediction: Lib Dem hold

Ward to watch: given that control seems unlikely to change hands, we are looking out for indications of how Paul Burstow MP will fare next year in Sutton & Cheam. There are currently four wards split between the Tories and Lib Dems: if the Tories win all three seats in the most Lib Dem of these – Nonsuch ward (named after Henry VIII’s since demolished palace) – Burstow is in trouble.

TOWER HAMLETS

Labour won 41 of Tower Hamlets 51 councillors in 2010, but the borough will be the focus of plenty of media interest this time.

That is not because of the council seats, but the position of the directly elected executive mayor. Labour introduced the position in the hope that it might be as transformative as it has been in neighbouring Hackney and Newham. But the timing was botched, leading to the election taking place several months after the 2010 local elections.

Former council leader Lutfur Rahman hoped to win the Labour nomination, but was frustrated by local and regional members who were dissatisfied with his record. He then chose to run as an independent, winning through in a low turnout election. In the wake of that election, 8 Labour members, and a Conservative, left their parties to support Rahman.

Local GLA member John Biggs is standing for Labour and is hopeful of victory, not least following a damning Panorama programme examining Rahman’s record. But Rahman is a tough street fighter that it would be unwise to write off, as his first election as mayor shows.

One ward – Blackwall and Cubitt Town – will have its election delayed due to the death of a candidate. This is unlikely to affect control of the council as it returned three Conservatives in 2010.

Prediction: Labour retain majority and Biggs wins mayoralty from Rahman.

Ward to watch: Shadwell ward elected two Labour councillors and one Respect councillor in 2010, and the Conservatives were not far behind in a gentrifying ward. Labour, Tory or Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First Party could all win here this time.

WALTHAM FOREST

Labour won 36 of Waltham Forest’s 60 council seats in 2010, following a period of sharing power with the Liberal Democrats.

Labour dominates the centre of the borough, around Walthamstow with its majestic town hall: they hold all but one council seat here (a Lib Dem in High Street ward). They now also hold most of the seats in Leyton to the south, although the Lib Dems still hold 5 council seats there, including all three in Leyton ward. Further north, the Conservatives hold all 18 of the council seats in the Chingford part of Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford & Woodford Green constituency.

Labour in the south are hoping to take all the Lib Dem seats there. In Walthamstow, the party is more varied: with only one seat left to take back Labour risks complacency in some wards despite some narrow majorities. Cracking Chingford will be harder for Labour, with only one ward offering real potential this time.

Prediction: Labour hold.

Wards to watch: Can Labour wipe out the Liberal Democrats by winning Leyton ward? Labour’s best chance in Chingford – Hale End & Highams Park ward – is also worth keeping an eye on.

WANDSWORTH

The Conservatives took control of Wandsworth from Labour all the way back in 1978 and has not lost it since, despite a near thing (a majority of one) in 1986. In 2010, the Conservatives held 47 of the 60 council seats, Labour the other 13.

Labour currently holds three wards in the south of the borough around Tooting, and Latchmere ward in Battersea. They also won one seat off the Tories in Roehampton, on the borough’s western edge.

Despite the Conservative dominance on the council, Labour has been more successful here at a Parliamentary level. They currently hold Sadiq Khan’s Tooting and also held Battersea until 2010. The third constituency, Putney, was in their hands between 1997 and 2005.

The difference between local and national results is probably down to the borough’s record of very low levels of council tax (the lowest in the country). Labour has often pointed out the consequences for the most vulnerable residents of the borough from this policy, but it seems that in Wandsworth that more voters prefer to keep their bills small than worry about the plight of their neighbours.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: Despite only losing Battersea in 2010, it seems an uphill struggle for Labour to win the constituency back at the next general election. Taking seats back off the Conservatives in Queenstown ward could indicate that this is possible.

WESTMINSTER

The Conservatives have always ran the City of Westminster, coming closest to losing control in the Shirley Porter era in 1986 (their majority fell to four in that year). They won 48 of the 60 seats in 2010, with Labour holding the remaining 12, figures that have stayed static since the current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002.

Labour holds four wards: three in the northwest of the borough around Queen’s Park and Westbourne Park and the very deprived Church Street ward around Lisson Grove (just north of Edgware Road and Marylebone stations). There is not much more that they could realistically take: an exceptional year might yield Little Venice or Maida Vale in the north of the borough, or Churchill ward in Pimlico to the south.

Even that level of exceptional performance would leave Labour short: winning all three councillors in all three would only reduce the Tory majority to a still safe 18 councillors.

Like Wandsworth, very low council tax helps the Conservatives do far better here than their Parliamentary results: Westminster North has a Labour MP (Karen Buck). Unsurprisingly, Westminster boasts the Tories’ safest ward in all London: council leader Philippa Roe’s Knightsbridge & Belgravia ward.

Prediction: Conservative hold

Ward to watch: if Labour can gain seats in the most marginal of the Tory-held wards, Maida Vale, it augurs well for Karen Buck’s chances to hold on next year.

 

SUMMARY

All these predictions leave our map looking like this. We should know by the end of Friday how close this is.

London 2014 prediction

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth May 22, 2014 at 9:48 am

Many thanks, Jackie: truly a labour of love!

One or two quibbles, if I may: a Tory-Liberal (as they then were) coalition ran Hammersmith & Fulham from 1974 to 1982. To criticise Asian councillors for preferring prestige to achievement is itself a racially biased statement (it is indeed difficult to make any other kind, as I know only too well) – the Asian communities of England’s cities are confronted with a choice of how, not whether or not, to decay. Don’t expect them to like it, though.

Springfield ward in Hackney has long been Tory because the Hasidic Jews (who make up a large part of the electorate there) long ago decided to vote for them – neither voters nor councillors have much connection with the rest of the world.

One element that you have – most pardonably – overlooked (with one or two exceptions) is the further gentrification of inner London. I will stick my neck out and say that Labour will lose seats in a number of Boroughs, notably H&F (as you say), K&C, Wandsworth and Westminster.

Reply

Demotivatrix May 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Woohoo! Tories lose control in Hammersmith & Fulham, having lost 11 seats. I’m wondering how much it’s to do with their Dame Shirley Porter style “regeneration” of Earls Court, the shameful decision to close Sulivan primary, or their support of the proposals that the borough loses both it’s A&E departments. The NHA party candidate in Muster ward beat the Lib Dems, which is interesting given the fairly limited amount of campaigning she was able to do.

Reply

George_East May 23, 2014 at 4:57 pm

All of those things I suspect. Toby Young will be crying his odious little heart out tonight, which is one reason to raise a glass or two.

Reply

Demotivatrix May 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Ealing FINALLY declared. Lovely hardworking Lib Dem councillor (one of the very few I’d still vote for) and the Tory in Elthorne have both been replaced by Labour candidates. All the Walpole seats have gone Labour too, and Labour have gained 13 seats overall here. Again the Ealing hospital downgrade and associated campaign has probably had an effect here.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: